Thursday, 12 July 2018

A mini break to Germany {Cologne & Bonn}

Travelling abroad and exploring new places is one of my absolute favourite things to do, though it's not something I now get chance to do very often, so when the opportunity to have a mini break to Germany came up, I knew I had to jump at the chance. Mr F works for a large German company, so he sometimes gets to travel over there for a few days at a time, and when we saw that our 8th wedding anniversary fell in the middle of his week abroad, we thought it would be a good opportunity for me to take a couple of days out of the normal weekly routine, hop on a plane and join him over there for 48 hours. I'm definitely a home bird and love my weekly routine of school runs, keeping on top of the house, nursery runs, cooking, a bit of blog work and just generally being an al round clown and entertainer to two little boys, but as much as I love that, I do also desperately need a little me time every now and again, and I couldn't wait to have a little bit of time away from the normal busy parenting duties. 

His work is based in the city of Bonn (the old capital of West Germany) which I flew to direct from Stansted airport with Ryanair (Eurowings also do the same route). I found myself wandering around Stansted, one cabin bag, a proper handbag, no sign of baby wipes or nappies, kids snacks or toys, and I honestly didn't quite know what to do with myself! It's really bizarre to suddenly have that time to yourself, the freedom to actually have a mooch around duty free or to sit and have a coffee, without having the boys there! Once I got over my mum guilt for leaving the boys behind (!!) and actually making myself switch off and relax, I felt fine, and all ready for the next two child free days in Germany.

The Hotel
I arrived around 9pm and got a taxi direct from the airport to the Kameha Grand Hotel in Bonn. The hotel hosts quite a few business meetings and has conference rooms so I would say on the whole it was mostly business men and women staying rather than tourists, and the hotel had a real feeling of luxury and grandeur about it, particularly in the grand entrance and exuberant decor. If you're like me and get really excited by hotel breakfasts, then you'll love breakfast at the Kameha Grand- tasty pastries, breads, juices, cooked options, pancakes, fruit and yoghurts and cereals. 
The whole hotel has quite a luxurious feel about it, and the decor is very flamboyant, and I did love the bathroom, complete with wet room shower.
I only stayed two nights, but I made sure I tried out the rooftop infinity pool which is part of the spa facilities. I even had the pool to myself for the morning, and it was fantastic to be able to swim and have views over the city. Unfortunately I didn't get chance to try the spa itself, but I know they offer massages and other spa treatments.

A Day Trip to Cologne
Mr F took the Wednesday off work so we could have the day to visit Cologne. We travelled into the city on train (I was even able to use some of my GCSE German to ask for directions and information about the train times!). We took the train from Oberkassel into the centre of Cologne, which took around half an hour. We were advised of a few places to head to and see, but more than anything, we were just looking forward to having the day to ourselves to potter around at leisure, no timetable and with no fixed plans and I really enjoyed that. 

The first thing you see in Cologne (you can't really miss it) is the impressive twin spires of Cologne Cathedral (known as the Dome). It was free to enter and walk around (though there are some restrictions on the times you can walk around depending on if there's a service on). You can book a guided tour but we preferred to potter around the building at our own pace. There are some really beautiful stained glass windows and lots of interesting things to read about. I can thoroughly recommend a visit there. 

We then had a potter around the main shopping streets which was lots of fun and a rare treat to just look around the shops. Yet of all the shops we could have gone to, we ended up in the Lego store to look at Lego for the boys! Creatures of habit... though in all fairness, it's an amazing shop and I can really recommend a visit there as children can sit and play with different Lego/Duplo creations and set ups. 

After grabbing a giant Pretzel from a bakery for lunch, we walked down to the Fischmarkt area of the city, with its pretty pastel buildings, water fountain and stunning views of the river. The cobbled streets are lined with ice cream shops and coffee shops and it's the perfect place to sit down with a cappuccino and plan your day around the city.

Another place worth visiting is the Hohenzollern railway Bridge, which pedestrians can walk over to cross the Rhein. One entire side between the pedestrian path and railway is covered entirely with colourful love padlocks- well worth a look and a few photos too.

Another place which was recommended to us was the Lindt Schokoladen Museum located on the riverside. It's €11,50 for adults, €7,50 for school children and under 6's are free. The museum mostly consists of exhibits about chocolate production and historical displays of packaging such as the old Kinder packaging, as well as an area where they show how chocolate is put into moulds and wrapped. You do get a small taste of chocolate on a wafer from a chocolate fountain, which really makes you want to go and buy the entire contents of the Lindt shop located at the end of the tour. I'd say the museum was more aimed at older children and teenagers than toddlers or young children due to the amount of reading involved and not much in the way of interactive displays. 

Before ending the day with a bit of shopping (yes, Cologne have an amazing Primark!) we headed up Koln Triangle Panorama. For €3 we headed up 29 floors in the lift (over 100m) to the top of the observation deck where we were greeted with breathtaking views over the city. It was pretty hot up there so we didn't spend long up there, but for €3 it was definitely worth the trip to get such great views. 

We really had a fantastic day in Cologne, and it's a fascinating city to visit. I'm sure there are many more things we could do there, but with only a day, we tried to do as much as we could as well as have a bit of a relax too. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration if you're ever visiting Northern Germany. I'll write a second post all about my second day in Germany and my solo trip into the city of Bonn. 



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